Living on Campus Off-campus Accommodation

Off-campus Accommodation

Students sitting around a small table outside, in lounge chairs, relaxing.

Live Off-Campus

If you are looking for a lifestyle that is truly independent, then living off-campus is for you!

Students seeking to enter the rental market for the first time, whether international or domestic students, should be aware of these tips and tricks for renting prior to their arrival in Cairns or Townsville, Australia.

We recommend international students considering living off-campus to arrive at least one week prior to JCU Orientation so they can view properties before signing a lease. Short term accommodation is available on-campus prior to O-week. Please see the information about Casual Stays for rates and to book.

Shared accommodation is a great idea if you want to live independently and want to meet new people. Share accommodation occurs when you either move into a house that is occupied by other people or you agree to rent a property with other people. Sharing a house with other people is a cost effective way to live because you share the costs of living with other people.

While shared accommodation is a great alternative to living by yourself, it can be complicated. You need to know exactly what you are looking for with your accommodation arrangements. There are some very important things you will need to consider when you are thinking about share accommodation.

Sites you may find useful in your search for share accommodation:

Decide on a location

Key points to consider with location include proximity to campus, public transport options and costs are and safety concerns, for example, crime rate or distance to public transport.

Decide on a budget

Keep in mind that most places are advertised excluding any bills. You’ll usually have to add gas, electricity and internet to the rate.

Decide on a living situation that suits your lifestyle

The possibilities in terms of the type of people you could find yourself living with are endless. You should take time to consider things like age preference, background, lifestyle, or whether they’re smoking or non-smoking, as these will have a direct impact on you.

Decide how long you plan to lease the room

Most share advertisements have a minimum time frame they wish to have the space occupied for; there may also be fees or charges should you wish to vacate the property sooner than you originally anticipated.

When viewing rooms, it’s usual to be introduced to the other people who reside in the house or apartment. We would at this point recommend you choose a number of properties to view to see what situation makes you feel the most comfortable.

It’s a good idea to get the appointments booked in as quickly as possible so that if you are offered a room you are able to respond to the offer as soon as possible. If you leave it too long you could run the risk of losing the offer.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions - remember you have to be comfortable in the property so the more you ask the better.

You might want to ask:

  • Is the flat noisy? Is it near a flight path or busy road?
  • Is there parking available, and at what cost? Does street parking require a council permit?
  • Is the flat safe and secure?
  • What happens when there are repairs to be done? Does the leaseholder or the owners take care of repairs, or is there an agent involved? Remember, all general repairs should be at the owner’s expense, unless the repair is due to tenant negligence.
  • Is the rent paid weekly, fortnightly or monthly? How is a receipt provided?
  • Are there any services provided with the accommodation (Foxtel, Internet, fixed phone line, etc.)? What is the average cost of the service(s)?
  • Is there a cleaning schedule? Or do you have a cleaner, if so at what cost?
  • Will the leaseholder or owner inspect the room prior to the new occupant moving in? How will this be documented?
  • What are the other occupants’ interests? How are they employed? What kind of hours do they keep?
  • Is the house quite social or do you generally keep to yourself?

A majority of rental properties are shown to prospective tenants by open house, usually a short window of time for you to inspect the premises. The most common day of the week to hold these is Saturday. Don’t be disillusioned by a huge group of people attending an open house – just because there are a lot of people there doesn’t mean they will all apply.

It’s worth remembering to:

  • Make a list of properties matching your criteria to view. If no open day is listed, make contact with the agent to check
  • Prepare copies of your supporting documentation to provide to the agent at the open when completing your application form.
  • Get there at least five minutes early so you are ready to inspect when the agent arrives
  • Allow enough travel time to get to each open on time
  • Introduce yourself to the agent and ask if they are showing any similar properties in the area.

The main point of an application is to assess the suitability of the applicant as a prospective tenant. The agent needs to assess whether the tenant will be able to pay the rent on time for the duration of the lease agreement and whether they will be able to keep the property in a good clean condition.

This assessment is carried out through a number of questions based on employment and rental history. Most agents have their own version, but all will ask the same general questions.

A lot of the problem’s students encounter when applying for properties is due to having no real rental or employment history. In these cases, it’s important to present yourself the right way to the agent. You can:

  • provide a bank statement which either clearly displays that you have sufficient funds to cover the rent for a three-month period or shows you have funds being regularly deposited into your account for living expenses
  • use a guarantor; your parent/guardian agrees to have their name included on the lease or provides a written guarantee that they will cover any outstanding monies should you not be able to make the rent. An agent cannot ask for a guarantor, but it can assist with putting the landlord’s mind at ease.
  • get a reference from your landlord or put the leaseholders contact details on your form if you have previously lived in shared accommodation
  • let the agent know if you are in position to offer three-six months’ rent in advance.  Again, an agent is not allowed to ask for more than one month’s rent in advance, but as an applicant you can offer this.

Supporting documentation

Most agents will request supporting documentation to be submitted along with your application; the minimum requirement is 100 points of identification. An example of how one agency might allocate points could be:

  • 70 points: birth certificate, passport, citizenship certificate
  • 40 points: driver’s licence, student ID card, employment ID card (with photo)
  • 35 points: utility bill, bank statement, group certificate
  • 25 points: credit/debit card, Medicare card, membership card for registered club.
  • It’s a good idea to have multiple photocopies of this documentation ready before starting your search. If you’re an international student, you should also provide a copy of your student visa and your JCU letter of offer.

As a student, it may be your first time moving out of home and seeking rental accommodation.

The Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) in Queensland provides information about the four main stages of renting -  before you rent, starting a tenancy, during and ending a tenancy.

Before you rent, we highly recommend you visit the RTA website (opens an external website) that specifically provides information for students.

Utilities and services

Services such as gas, electricity and telephone require the tenant to set up an account upon moving into the property. Most agents will provide you with your options for which companies you can sign up with and may also be able to set up your services on your behalf.


Make sure to view all utility bills to ensure you are paying the correct amount.

Be aware

You should try to be aware of your surroundings and your flatmates in things like cleaning up after yourself and turning off appliances and lights after use. General cleanliness and awareness is vital to ensure the smooth running of a household and avoid unnecessary confrontations.

Repairs and maintenance

At the commencement of the lease agreement it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the property is clean and fit to live in. Throughout the tenancy the landlord must continue to maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair, excluding standard wear and tear.

We’ve included some tips for property repairs.

All repairs need to be reported to the landlord or agent as soon as they are found. If a tenant fails to report a repair and this leads to more damage being created, this will be due negligence on the tenants part. In this case the tenant may be required to pay for repair or replacement of the item.

Repairs should be reported in writing to the landlord or agent unless they are of an urgent nature.

Urgent repairs include burst pipes, no hot water, the oven/stove not working, no electricity, flooding and gas leaks.

Keep records of repairs reported in the event of issues arising later on. Email is useful as you can easily find out when something was sent and keep track of any replies.

For any significant damage take photos; it is a good idea to document any changes.

Even if you aren’t living in JCU residences, JCU Accommodation Services can help you with all sorts of accommodation needs, such as:

  • General advice on tenancy matters
  • Short to long-term accommodation providers

For any queries, email the JCU Accommodation Services team, or call +617 4781 5592.